Fall leaves may be the furthest thing from your mind these days, but Fairfax County is asking residents to think ahead and help make an important decision about autumn lawn maintenance: whether to end its vacuum leaf collection service.
The county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services proposes ending its vacuum leaf collection service. About 25,000 customers have the service that’s expected to incur a deficit of $1.3 million by the end of 2024’s fiscal year.
A public input survey is open until August 18 for residents to weigh in on the proposal.
As the program currently stands, residents within the participating areas set leaves out on the curb during designated times three times a season. Crews collect the leaves with vacuum equipment and subsequently turn the waste into mulch, which is distributed throughout the county. Residents can then get the mulch for free.
Last year, the county faced significant challenges with the leaf collection service, including “collection delays, staffing shortages, a larger volume of leaves than normal, and inclement weather,” which resulted in delayed service, according to a news release.
The county said residents have expressed concerns about safety when leaves are left in the road awaiting collection. Those concerns include blocked storm drains, pedestrians being forced to walk in the street, fire hazards, slip-and-fall dangers, and reduced on-street parking.
It estimates that the 2023 season will incur an approximate $900,000 deficit resulting from increased contracting and labor costs, plus an additional $400,000 deficit by the end of fiscal year 2024.
The county said it will make a final decision by this fall. If enacted, the change will take place in the 2024–2025 season since customers have already been billed for the 2023–2024 season. Rather than paying the county directly, as with trash collection, customers within the leaf collection district are charged a tax based on their property value. If the program is dissolved, the tax would also be discontinued.
In addition to the online survey, residents can provide input by texting or leaving a voicemail at 703-890-5898 (project code 2159).
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